NBA legend Michael Jordan’s endorsement deal with Nike, most recently chronicled in ESPN’s documentary series “The Last Dance,” has proven to be one of the most lucrative partnerships of its kind in the history of sports.
Jordan’s ties to Nike date back to 1984, when he signed a five-year deal worth $500,000 a year, the richest sneaker deal in the NBA at the time. The first “Air Jordan” sneaker was released that year and became an instant hit, generating more than $100 million in sales in the 12 months after its release.
Jordan Brand grew even more successful as the longtime Chicago Bulls star’s on-court exploits established him as one of the most celebrated American athletes of all time. Former Nike CEO Mark Parker disclosed last December that the Jordan imprint had recorded its first-ever $1 billion quarter.
“What’s most exciting is we’re still in the early stages of diversifying the Jordan portfolio,” Parker said at the time.
The Jordan Brand generated $3.1 billion in sales in Nike’s 2019 fiscal year, which ended last May. That total accounted for about eight percent of the apparel giant’s overall sales.
As detailed in “The Last Dance,” Jordan signed with Nike despite preferring its top rival, Adidas. Unlike Adidas, Nike was willing to give the former University of North Carolina standout his own signature sneaker.
He agreed to meet with Nike only after his agent, David Falk, enlisted Jordan’s mother to convince him. Nike executives ultimately sold Jordan on their plan for his brand.
"Go into that meeting not wanting to be there, and Nike made this big pitch," Jordan said on the documentary. "My father said, 'You'd have to be a fool not taking this deal. This is the best deal.'"
Jordan has earned $1.3 billion from his Nike deal since 1984, including $130 million last year alone, according to Forbes.